Written by: Dr. Brett Wisniewski and Benjamin Harwood
This is one of those things that is rarely discussed in medicine, but I’m going to put my neck out there and let you all in on a little secret. When you enter a doctor’s office, you have essentially HIRED them to perform a service. If you are not happy with the service, you have every right to “fire” your physician. Time and time again I hear how patients have been going to the same Doctor for 20 years with little benefit. It amazes me that they have not gone somewhere else. You wouldn’t go to the restaurant for 20 years that you didn’t like or a mechanic who has been working on your car for 20 years and has yet to fix your car. Why are doctor visits the exception?
Below are the 6 common reasons you should fire your doctor and look for another.
Dr. Chaplin will see you now…
Poor communication is the number 1 complaint by patients. Nearly 25% of all patients encounters end in dissatisfaction due to poor communication from their physician. The word “doctor” originated from the Latin verb docēre, which means to teach. Unfortunately, I do not find that doctors are sticking to the very origins of the profession. Often times, I will review health history and current treatments they are on and they really do not know what is going on with them nor why they are taking certain substances. This is not likely due to the doctor’s un-intelligence, but rather the lack of time spent with the patient; which brings us to our next point.
The Cattle Farmer
Have you ever spent over 2 hours in the waiting room with 15 other folks; all waiting for the same physician? This is not a good sign and, in the current insurance reimbursement climate, it is becoming more of the norm. Patients are shuffled in and out like cattle, often spending a mere 3 minutes with the physician assistant (PA) while never seeing the doctor.
Side note: It is worthy of mention that not all doctors have lost their integrity and switching to a higher volume practice is more of a necessity, rather than a choice. There is this illusion in society that doctors are just doctors and not business owners. Many doctors own their own practice (although this is going away as well) and have overhead, like any other business owner—staff, utilities, supplies, liability and malpractice insurance. You may be surprised to see how expensive it is, even to run a small practice. Lower reimbursement rates from insurance companies forces them to have to see more patients in a day to cover their overhead and stay in business. A lot of doctors have begun to not accept insurance for this very reason. They can spend more time with the patients, order the tests necessary, and administer the care you deserve without having to worry about low insurance reimbursement or better yet the patient not receiving the care they NEED because their “insurance doesn’t cover that”.
Know it All
No doctor, or even a person for that matter, knows everything. They may be well versed in many subjects of health, but it is not probable that they know every organ inside and out, every biochemical reaction, every test, every possible treatment, every…well, you see where I am going with this. Now this does not mean that there aren’t very intelligent and well-versed doctors out there; but any doctor who claims to know everything should raise a red flag in your mind. It is OK for your doctor to say “I don’t know; but I will do some research on that”. This does not make him or her incompetent or a bad doctor, to me it means that they truly care and are thorough. Your doctor will make mistakes, and that is OK; at this current time we know just a fraction of what the body is capable of. Practicing medicine is very much a work in progress.
These are the doctors that have the mentality- “It’s my way or the highway” and often times dismiss your own data collection or research. As to the point above, I do not know it all and with all the changes in agri-business, our environment, and food technology there are new syndromes and diseases popping up every single day. I encourage my patients to research their case, but with a word of caution. Do not let it control your life. Often we find patients being consumed by their conditions, which cause a downward spiral effect and lessens their chance of a positive outcome. Joining forums and groups of those with the same condition are black holes for your energy and positive outlook. Proceed with caution.
It’s 100% Success Rate
I always say that a doctor should be judged on their failures rather than their successes. Every doctor fails at times—these failures allow the doctor to learn and re-evaluate practices and procedures so that it can be rectified in the future. A doctor who believes he or she is always 100% successful misses out on this opportunity to be awakened to new ideas. They often approach patients or treatments with a hardheaded manner, meaning if there is an adverse reaction or a set back in care, “it couldn’t have been from what I prescribed; it must be something else that you (the patient) did on your own.” Be wary of these kinds of practices as this is the farthest thing from being a team that you want.
Clash of the Titans
If you and your doctor just do not seem to get along—I would urge you to seek care somewhere else. A bond between a doctor and his or her patients is something that needs to be nourished as a life long commitment. Sticking with a doctor long term allows them to evaluate your case, lifestyle, dietary needs, and proper treatment protocols that you respond best to; often learned through trial and error. How often did you wish that the doctor knew you had a negative response to a certain prescription or treatment before putting you on it? This is something that can only be learned over a period of time. Old patient files, believe it or not, are often incomplete and requesting your old records does not always inform the doctor completely of your health history.
There is an art and a science to being a doctor. Knowing the physiology and biochemistry while being able to put it all together and relay it into understandable terms for the patients takes a large amount of skill.
There are 2 sides to every coin. A physician has every right to fire you as a patient, as well.
Non-compliance is the most common reason for a patient to be dismissed from practice. I believe that is the right thing to do as the patient is wasting their time and money as well as the doctor’s. Finding the right physician can be difficult and a labor-intensive process. People spend more time researching the right car to purchase than picking a doctor. Often, in America, doctors are chosen based on your insurance coverage. Sometimes you will luck out and find a doctor that is competent, friendly, and knowledgeable and takes your insurance; this is rare. Health insurance has very little to do with keeping you healthy, so a reliance on their recommendations or those in your network may not best suit your needs.
“Health Insurance has as much to do with health as Life Insurance has to do with keeping you alive.”
Hiring a doctor out of your network, but that gives you the care you need, is well worth the investment. Spend the time to find the right doctor. A lot of doctors are willing to talk to you for a few minutes on the phone so you can “interview” them to see if their office is right for you.
Questions to ask would be those that pertain to your case. Where the doctor went to school is not a good reflection of their competency. Let’s look at an example:
A patient came to me with long standing stomach symptoms. They started out the conversation by informing me of what they have tried in the past—allergy testing, anti-acids, etc. This was good information that I could take and begin to formulate what I thought may be going on. You may want to ask the doctor about his or her experience with your condition or similar and their success rate. What’s the possible time frame for the resolution of symptoms (this is highly variable but most doctors can give you a rough idea)? Also, you would want to find out what the options are for treatment within their office or by referral. Was the conversation left open ended for the future if you had a few more questions before booking an appointment?
What you are looking for is that the doctor was listening and answering your questions to the best of their ability in the short time frame. One of the most over-looked aspects of care is the personality of the doctor—did they seem to care? Please remember there is no way they can get it all right in 10min, but you can see if they are going down the path that may be best for you.
Look to create a long-term partnership or a team with your doctor. The longer you have been with a doctor, the more efficient they become at taking care of you- they know what treatments do and don’t work for you. If you are not happy currently, you are not stuck where you are. Begin your search. Asking family and friends may be a good place to start. If your at a complete loss…try to calling your insurance company and get a list of contracted doctors that are on your plan-call around and ask questions! I hope you found this informative in your quest for optimal wellness. Now some of you have some work to do—some may even be firing their physician!